“Love Our Locals” by “Laughing Out Loud” - 10 Questions with Monique and Adam Madrid of LOL JAX Film Festival
"When you want something, all the Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."
- Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist -
Monique and Adam Madrid are the kind of visionaries every community needs.
What started as an idea in passing soon developed into the foundation for what has become the LOL JAX Film Festival - a local Short Film Festival with a mixing in of Stand Up Comedy. The project launched two and a half years ago and has already gained a huge amount of notoriety, recognition, and community support in a relatively short amount of time.
The idea was to create a platform to showcase short films and talent by local community filmmakers, actors/actresses, and comedians while promoting positivity within that same community. Perhaps it was fortuitous that the idea came to Monique while they were attending the 2016 Jacksonville Horror Showcase hosted at Sun-Ray Cinema in Historic Five Points. A little over a year later that very same venue would be the flagship site for their own film festival.
Pairing their love of cinema and filmmaking with a dash of comedy between the lines has proven to be just the right recipe for success for the pair. They have big plans on the horizon as they approach their third year in operation and we're happy they made the time to discuss the past, present, and future of LOL JAX with us.
Thank you so much for agreeing to chat with us! Please introduce yourselves to our readers...
Hello everyone, we are the Madrids!
Adam: I hail from the West Coast and was born in California before I moved with family at an early age to Jacksonville, Florida.
Monique: I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and as a Navy brat was raised in part in Virginia before moving with my family as a teen to Jacksonville.
We met and fell in love while attending Forrest High School (now called Westside High). After I graduated from the University of North Florida (2005) with my Bachelor’s in Sociology, we got married (in 2006).
Adam: I started filmmaking at an early age and pursued it professionally as an adult. I formed my film company Argyle Forest Films with some childhood friends and have produced many short films over the years including one called No Laughing Matter that won the 48 Hour Film Project for Jacksonville and was shown in Hollywood, California at the world-famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre. I freelanced for a year working with non-profit organizations before joining the staff of PRI Productions as their resident Videographer and Photographer in 2017.
Monique: In addition to helping produce and edit many of Adam’s film projects, I've worked with several non-profits. Among my favorites is Making Strides for Breast Cancer Orange Park with the American Cancer Society where I raise money for research while completing a 5K walk. I also helped with a local non-profit called All I Know, Inc. by starting a prom dress drive program called You Are Worthy in Jacksonville that helps Senior High girls with financial hardship find dresses for their proms.
Early in our marriage we started our own DJ company called A&M Productions that was in business for twelve years before we shut it down to pursue a new passion (film festivals).
Let's start at the beginning. Where, when, how, and why did you decide to start the LOL JAX Film Festival? Tell us the origin story...
Monique: I literally turned to my husband and asked if we could organize a comedy film festival while we were attending another local film festival at Sun-Ray Cinema called Jacksonville Horror Showcase in July 2016. He didn't answer right away, but by the next day he was on board and from there LOL JAX was launched.
Adam: Monique came up with the concept of bringing on local stand-up comedians to host and do stand-up in between films being screened. We asked local comedian, Jenn Weeks, if she would be the resident host for the event each year, which she accepted instantly. Kessler Creative became the first sponsor to partner with our festival. Their belief in the project is something for which we will forever be grateful.
Monique: I felt the urge to create this platform to promote positivity in Jacksonville. I felt like I had to be the change I wanted to see. Making the world a better place starts within.
The first year exceeded the our expectations by selling out at the same theatre in which the vision was born.
LOL JAX is still relatively young, but has already garnered much praise and endorsement - including, but not limited to being voted Best of Jax in 2018 by Folio Weekly in the Folio 500. How do you feel about how your platform has been received?
We are still amazed and humbled by the local support this festival has received from not only the local film and comedy community but by random locals who decided to give the festival a chance. As we begin prepping for year three, we feel the power in the fact that our festival has placed us in positions to help, support, inspire, celebrate and collaborate with various local artists.
What is your mission or purpose with LOL JAX Film Festival?
The vision of LOL JAX is to create a platform that will allow our local community filmmakers, actors/actresses, and comedians to showcase their short films and talent. The genre of comedy was chosen as a way to promote positivity to the audience. “Love Our Locals” by “Laughing Out Loud” is the motto of this festival.
What are some of the challenges you've faced in growing and developing the project?
Just because we had films screened at film festivals over the years did not mean we knew how to run one. When we quickly realized there was a lot to learn, we put in the work to be more knowledgeable. We kept our faith strong and we really worked as a team to put this together.
We thought year one would be the hardest but in reality, that was the fun part - watching our thoughts become reality. It’s the maintenance and the pressure to outdo ourselves every year that has been the challenge. The pressure has really worked for us because we have maintained and grown our audience with each passing year.
It still blows our minds that even after promoting like crazy for weeks and months in advance we will still have people come up to us and say they didn’t know about our event. Each year, we try to find new and interesting ways to get the word out.
Lastly, another of our challenges has been venues. There are some beautiful places to screen films, but not all locations are willing to work with artist’s budget which can be discouraging at times. However, we push on and continue to work with venues that are reasonable and believe in the vision.
In the time that you've been living and working as artists in Jacksonville, how do you view the evolution of the arts since you first put down roots in this city?
It has definitely grown! More artists and creatives are starting to come out of their shells to collaborate and create with one another. More link-up groups are popping up so artists can network and promote.
Last Fall you, Monique - on behalf of LOL JAX - were one of ten recipients of the Community First Cares Foundation Individual Artist Grant administered by the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. How helpful has that grant money been to your development and what advice would you give to artists who might be hesitant about beginning a grant application process?
Monique: It was the first grant I ever applied for, and I won. The grant has been helpful with growing and expanding the brand. We are able to enhance the experience for filmmakers and fans by adding more props for this upcoming year. We also plan to put funds toward paying venues where the films will be shown.
My advice would be to take the leap and to never turn down an opportunity to better your purpose. The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t get it - and nothing changes if that happens. However, you have so much to gain if you do win.
What have you learned about yourselves through your work and the development of LOL JAX?
We learned that our vision has now turned into purpose. Our festival is inspiring our film community to keep creating.
What's next for LOL JAX?
We teamed up with Jacksonville Short Film Showcase to create: Ladies in Cinema Film Fest Jax that will premiere February 09, 2019 at UNF at 6pm. It's a free event with refreshments provided. The event will celebrate local female filmmakers by having a panel of local accomplished filmmakers discussing the challenges women face in the industry today. There will be a screening of films made by the panelists with a Q&A session to follow immediately.
We're also gearing up for the next 48 Hour Film Project which will take place in May 2019. This competition challenges filmmakers to make a short film from start to completion within 48 hours (only). Filmmakers will draw a genre and will have to put a certain prop, line, and character in their film. The winning team will go on to compete at the international Filmapalooza for the chance to be selected to have the film shown at Cannes.
LOL JAX Film Festival will be held the first weekend in August 2019. We continue to show comedy shorts with stand-up comedians performing in between but we have expanded to include local band performances during the festival weekend. Registration for filmmakers is free and will begin April 01, 2019. There will be a cash prize for the winning film.
If filmmakers have any questions about any of our upcoming projects they can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Facebook @LOLJAX or on Instagram or Twitter @LOLJAXFestival.
How do you define success in what you do?
Success is finding what makes you happy and choosing to do that every day. It’s a state-of-mind and not a dollar sign!
We'd like to thank Monique and Adam for their participation in this interview. We'd also like to thank you for reading.
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